Do structural habitat modifications associated with urbanization influence locomotor performance and limb kinematics in Anolis lizards?

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Urbanization significantly alters habitats for arboreal species, increasing the frequency of very smooth substrates by substituting artificial objects, such as metal poles and painted walls, for some trees. Because they experience these novel substrates more often, urban animals may use strategies to overcome challenges from substrate smoothness that animals from natural habitats do not. We assessed locomotor performance and two-dimensional hindlimb kinematics of two species of Anolis lizards (Anolis cristatellus and Anolis sagrei) from both urban and natural habitats in Miami, Florida. We ran lizards on six racetracks, crossing three substrates of increasing smoothness (rough bark, concrete blocks, and smooth, unpainted wood) with two inclinations (37° and vertical). We found that on vertical tracks with smooth substrates, lizards ran slower, took shorter strides and exhibited more contracted limb postures at the end of their stance than when running on the inclined track. Urban lizards, which are likely to be exposed more often to smooth substrates, did not adjust their movement to increase performance relative to lizards from natural habitats. This result, and the similarity of kinematic strategies between the two species, suggests the locomotor responses of lizards to substrate properties are highly conserved, which may be a mitigating factor that dampens or obviates the effects of natural selection on locomotor behaviour.

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Biological Journal of the Linnean Society